Archive for December, 2008

Social media – a noun and a verb?

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

The word “design” can be understood as both a noun and a verb. As a noun design is the end-product: “the design”. When used as a verb (to design) it refers to process of thinking, problem solving and communicating.

Because of the growing impact of social media in our life we should redefine the term “media” similar way: consider it both a noun and a verb.

In his MA thesis Jussi Erkkola concluded (in Finnish, the following is my translation/summary) that social media is technology-related and structural process where individuals and groups are building shared meanings, through peer- and use-production, with help of content, communities and network technologies. Social media is also post-industrial phenomenon that is changing the industrial production and distribution structures and this way has an impact to society, economy and culture ( – Erkkola 2008 – ).

Meaning making. Hmm.. Interesting isn’t it?

Meaning making requires thinking, problem solving and communicating. All these are important in design, media and learning. Without media (natural language and speech are media, too) there isn’t communication. As meaning making is also in the core of learning, are design, media and learning actually all the same? No they are not, but they are related and play an important role in each other.

A successful design process is a learning process.

A successful learning process is a design process.

A successful participation in a social media is design and learning process.

Design, media and learning are always connected.

Tarmo has pointed out that something to be called social media it … well …. should be social. A blog is not a social media per se. It becomes social media only when the writer and his writings are participating in the blogsphere. If one is just writing his thought online without reading and commenting other people’s blogs he is simply replicating the convention of broadcasting media.

Same rule works with wikis as social media. If it is only you who write to the wiki it is not a social media. More writers mean that it is more social. When there are many voices a social and cultural issues become more important. The community starts to create social norms.

I find the role of design in learning and social media extremely interesting question. Many personal learning environment thinkers seem to feel that the design of learning should be fully in the hands of each individual. I am one of those people who think that some people may actually know what is good for some other people. Why is this?

Meaning making in most areas of life follows certain pattern. People who have taken the path know it. The smartest of them even know what might be wrong in it, and some of them have made the effort to fix it. Guiding someone means that you do the trip together, not that you give a person a map and tell how to do the trip, but to do the trip with the person.

Media Lab Helsinki Christmas Demo Day

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Media Lab Helsinki demo day is a one day event taking place twice a year – every autumn and spring, in the end of the semester. During the demo day the students and faculty are presenting some of their projects done during the semester. Demo day is as old traditions as the Lab, found in 1993.

Long time before the “unconference boom” the demo day has been its own kind of unconference with 5-10 minutes lighting talks / Pecha Kucha and try it yourself booths.

I couldn’t make it this year to the demo day, because of traveling. The program looks interesting. It looks that the projects that were presented can be categorized to be art, product design, cultural heritage, activism, games etc. The technology trends seems to be physical computing, gesture interfaces, electronics, sensory data, mobiles, etc. What is also characteristic in many of the projects is the design methodology used: most of the projects are strongly relying on the co-design and participatory design approaches. Media Lab Helsinki is on the side of the people.

I put up here seven project I must take a closer look when back in Helsinki:

(1) Clip Kino Helsinki – self-organizing screening events of short video clips and documentaries found online.

The “movement” has an interesting pedagogical statement:

“This is ‘direct action’ media literacy: What media is online? Who is watching it? What does it mean to them, and indeed to you? Where does the video clip come from? How was it produced and distributed? Has it inspired copies, remixes or derivatives? The activity can be a practical and critical education of intellectual property (IP) issues and the emerging configurations of public-private space.

(2) ‘ShapeShifting’ media software

ShapeShifting is a package of tools designed to produce new forms of storytelling that broadband will enable. The tools were developed within a series of experimental productions.

“If theatres have plays, books have novels and television has programmes – what does broadband have? What is the new storytelling for broadband?”

(3) Krutdurken educational game.

The Krutdurken game is a combination of history lesson and strategy war game taking place in the context of the Finnish War (1908-1909). I am rather critical about the “edutaiment” idea, all in all – there are too few good examples. I also think that engaging computer game can be used for educational purposes but a game should not be designed to be primary “educational”.

There are many examples of computer games that can be used in education. The SIMs and the Civilization are the most obvious examples of these. So, one should not design the game to be “educational” but one may design the game to be “serious”. When the game is serious it can be educational, too.

A Danish company called Serious Games is doing exactly this. They have very interesting two games out: Global Conflicts: Palestine and Global Conflicts: Latin America.(Link via Petri Lankoski)

In the case of Krutdurken it looks that the “educational aims” have overtook the game design objectives. This is common, especially when the client is more interested in education and less on gaming. I assume this has been the case with the Krutdurken game, too. The client was The Society of Swedish Literature in Finland (SLS). However, kudos for the SLS for doing the project.

(4) Zipiko – broadcast your intentions

Zipiko is a service to share your plans with your friends with mobile phones. The people behind the the Zipiko talk about “intention broadcasting”. I like the concept. I assume the experience where you are planning to do something but finally do not do it, because you do not find company to join you, is in some level universal. At least it often happens to me. Would broadcasting my intentions to my whole social network be a solution to this? Maybe – this is what Zipiko people think.

“Intention Broadcasting is the process of sharing your plans and intentions via mobile and IT systems. It has similarities to status messaging but with the emphasis on the future.”

When looking and thinking the Zipiko from the point of view of learning I see it as a potential tool to enhance informal learning among people who have large and heterogeneous social networks. In this kind of network, with the help of ZIpiko you could organize meetings with people from whom you could learn something and for whom you may teach something. Having a large and heterogeneous social network is then another issue. To have this one must have tolerance, understanding and openness to difference cultures, sub-cultures and life-styles. All different – all equal.

(5) Rope as Mind Mapping

This project does not have anything yet online but the description of it is very interesting. I would love to try this in learning context. Let’s see.

“Rope is a prototype of a gesture based mind mapping tool. It tries to improve the convenience of other tools which exist today. It could also be used for bookmarking, video/photo collections, script writing.

(6) Nokia . Expand – a mobile school communication device for children in developing regions of the world

Nokia . Expand is another project without web presence, yet. The fact that they do not yet have anything online makes it even more interesting. I have been meeting several times with Anna Keune, the designer strongly involved in the project, and know that they have some great ideas. I hope they are recycling some of these ideas too:

(Critical) history of ICT in education – and where we are heading? – June 23, 2005

Mobile phones for learning – September 01, 2005

Wlan device for school children – January 19, 2007

Deschooling society with free phone calls – Skype on your mobile phone – February 13, 2007

The Edu-Mobile: GSM/GPRS, radio, e-book/wiki/blog reader/writer, USB – June 18, 2007

Thank you OLPC – Maybe now we may start to talk about education again – January 14, 2008

Handheld Learning Solution – January 15, 2008

OLPC, personal computer, web browser and connectivity – May 06, 2008

(7) Co-designing Media Lab

This is a real “eating one’s own dog food” project. In Media Lab we keep on talking about co-design and participatory design. The project is aiming to re-design our physical facilities with a help of video cameras and Fusion platform – a P2P collaborative video editing tool.

I can’t wait to see how the Lab will be when I am back in Helsinki.